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Fail Up

BOOK: Fail Up
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ALSO BY
TAVIS SMILEY

Books

What I Know For Sure:
My Story of Growing Up in America

Covenant with Black America
—
Edited by Tavis Smiley

THE COVENANT In Action
—
Compiled by Tavis Smiley

ACCOUNTABLE:
Making America as Good as Its Promise
—Edited by Tavis Smiley and Stephanie Robinson

Doing What's Right
: How to Fight for What You Believe—
and Make a Difference

Keeping the Faith

Hard Left

How to Make Black America Better
—Edited by Tavis Smiley

DVDs/CDs

STAND:
a film by Tavis Smiley

On Air:
The Best of Tavis Smiley
on the
Tom Joyner Morning Show 2004–2008
4-CD commemorative set with booklet

Please visit the distributor of SmileyBooks:

Hay House USA:
www.hayhouse.com
®
Hay House Australia:
www.hayhouse.com.au
Hay House UK:
www.hayhouse.co.uk
Hay House South Africa:
www.hayhouse.co.za
Hay House India:
www.hayhouse.co.in

Copyright © 2011 by Tavis Smiley

Published in the United States by:
SmileyBooks, 250 Park Avenue South, Suite #201, New York, NY 10003 •
www.SmileyBooks.com

Distributed in the United States by:
Hay House, Inc.:
www.hayhouse.com
•
Published and distributed in Australia by:
Hay House Australia Pty. Ltd.:
www.hayhouse.com.au
•
Published and distributed in the United Kingdom by:
Hay House UK, Ltd.:
www.hayhouse.co.uk
•
Published and distributed in the Republic of South Africa by:
Hay House SA (Pty), Ltd.:
www.hayhouse.co.za
•
Distributed in Canada by:
Raincoast:
www.raincoast.com
•
Published and distributed in India by:
Hay House Publishers India:
www.hayhouse.co.in

Cover and interior design:
Charles McStravick •
Interior photos: Credits in text

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any mechanical, photographic, or electronic process, or in the form of a phonographic recording; nor may it be stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, or otherwise be copied for public or private use—other than for “fair use” as brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews—without prior written permission of the publisher.

The opinions set forth herein are those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of the publisher or Hay House, Inc., or any of its affiliates.

Library of Congress Control Number:
2011920259

Hardcover ISBN:
978-1-4019-3390-6
Digital ISBN:
978-1-4019-3392-0

14  13  12  11    4  3  2  1
1st edition, May 2011

Printed in the United States of America

CONTENTS

Introduction

CHAPTER   1:
   
BEFORE HONOR COMES HUMILITY

CHAPTER   2:
   
CHEATERS NEVER WIN

CHAPTER   3:
   
DON'T DO ME NO FAVORS

CHAPTER   4:
   
YOU'RE ALWAYS ON

CHAPTER   5:
   
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

CHAPTER   6:
   
A PINK SLIP CAN FIRE YOU UP!

CHAPTER   7:
   
REMAIN DIGNIFIED EVEN WHEN YOU'RE JUSTIFIED

CHAPTER   8:
   
DO YOUR HOMEWORK

CHAPTER   9:
   
LOOSE LIPS CAN SINK SHIPS

CHAPTER 10:
  
GET IN WHERE YOU FIT IN

CHAPTER 11:
  
LIVING FOR THE CITY

CHAPTER 12:
  
GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT

CHAPTER 13:
  
THE DIVERSITY IMPERATIVE

CHAPTER 14:
  
SAVE SPACE FOR GRACE

CHAPTER 15:
  
AND THE WINNER IS … NOT ME

CHAPTER 16:
  
KEEP IT TIGHT

CHAPTER 17:
  
GET READY TO BE READY

CHAPTER 18:
  
POWER VS. PRINCIPLE

CHAPTER 19:
  
WHEN EVERYBODY TURNS AGAINST YOU

CHAPTER 20:
  
FATHER KNOWS BEST

Gratitude

About the Author

AUTHOR'S
NOTE

This is a work of nonfiction.
Conversations have been
reconstructed to the best
of my recollection.

INTRODUCTION

“If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he is traveling wrong,
then my living shall not be in vain.”

—DR . MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

T
his book is being released on the occasion of my 20th anniversary in broadcasting: two decades of strife, struggle, and success made more relevant through my many failures.

Most people who have ever succeeded in any human endeavor will tell you they learned more from their failures than they ever learned from their successes. If they're being honest. But a funny thing happens when success becomes an individual's dominant definer. It's what Dr. King, whom I consider the greatest American this country has ever produced, alluded to in his speech “The Drum Major Instinct.” The impulse, he said, comes with a constructive and destructive side. Helping others, serving humanity—these are positive attributes of the instinct. However, the desires to be out front, to be first, to lead the parade—these are the negative parts of the drum major instinct. If not harnessed, Dr. King said, the instinct can lead to a sort of “snobbish exclusivism,” where our egos dictate our actions.

Very few achievers want to then show off their warts by acknowledging the mistakes they've made along the way, much less put them in a book. I think that's unfortunate.

Millions of people struggle with what it means to be successful, and the lesson they take away from successful folk who hide or deny their failures leads to an artificial construct of success. By “artificial” I mean the notion that people become successful without “success scars.” Let me be clear: There is no success without failure. Period. And usually a lot of it.

I used to love Michael Jordan's “Failure” commercial for Nike. You might recall it:

I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career
I've lost almost 300 games
26 times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot
. . . and missed
I've failed over and over and over again in my life
And that is why I succeed

Powerful stuff.

The song “If I Can Help Somebody,” written by Alma Bazel Androzzo, has motivated me over the years to share my personal failures in my speeches, on my television and radio programs, and with the young people we serve at the Tavis Smiley Foundation. Through my scars, I have been blessed to arrive at a place I never imagined. A place where that relentless teacher called experience now causes me to reflect on the nebulous concepts of
success
and
failure
in my own life.

In this book, I detail 20 of the most impactful lessons of my life. To be sure, I've failed plenty more than 20 times! But these events are the ones that caused me to wrestle with and ultimately embrace the true meaning of the exhortation by the Nobel Prize-winning playwright, novelist, and poet Samuel Beckett:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Since I was 12, Dr. King has been my hero. As you progress through this book, you will better understand why I reserve such an esteemed place in my heart for this iconic servant-leader. What's not so well known is that I also deeply admire the courageous journey of Malcolm X. I respect his courage to wrestle with his own demons and his principled decision to sacrifice his anointed position with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, the religion that rescued him from a life of crime and dissipation. The trek from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz is a remarkable study in spiritual and political evolution and integrity.

In Malcolm's life,
failure
was an attribute. Consider his speech after returning from his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964. As the public face of the Nation of Islam, he vehemently insisted that whites could play no role in the struggle for Black people's equality and independence. Whites, as far as Malcolm was concerned, were not part of his definition of brotherhood. That changed after his trip to the Holy Land.

“I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood
practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their
color. You may be shocked by these words coming
from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen,
and experienced, has forced me to re-arrange much
of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss
aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not
too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have
always been a man who tries to face facts, and to
accept the reality of life as new experience and new
knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind,
which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand
in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.”

Hopefully, this book channels Malcolm's commitment to personal growth. He didn't shrink from his failure to grasp the meaning of true brotherhood; he embraced it as a detour to new experiences and new knowledge.

BOOK: Fail Up
5.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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